Consanguinity: (kŏn'săng-gwĭn'ĭtē) , relationship by blood, whether linear or collateral.

Primarily concentrating on my Browning family from Harrison County, Ohio (and their subsequent move to Crawford County, Illinois) but I've got Plymell, Crago, Eagleton, Garrard, McConnell, Nichols, Swan, Nevitt, Huls, Markee, Depperman, Papstein/Popstein and Hamilton in there too. And that's just the beginning......

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Cecil(e)'s Letters - Say WHAT? A Mystery Solved...

For the last ten years since my beloved grandmother Beulah Ethel (Garrard) Browning died -- and for at least ten years before that -- there had been an ongoing mystery playing in my head about her younger years.  This 'mystery'  really wasn't much of a mystery.....not really......I thought I'd had it all figured out long ago.   The mystery part I always tried to fill in with 'details' was only because my grandmother never really shared too much information about it.

Hm.  I sound as clear as mud.  I should explain.

 As I've said in earlier posts, my grandparents were unusual for their times because they waited so long to marry.  My grandmother was 33 years old and my grandfather was 32 when they married in 1934.  They'd been seeing each other since 1927.  The Great Depression and responsibilities for taking care of other family members had extended their courtship.  Every time my grandma and I touched upon the subject of her relative spinsterhood and whether or not she'd had other boys she was sweet on before meeting and marrying my grandfather, she would steer the conversation away from particulars and just talk in rather sweeping generalities.  However, at some point the conversation would always come around to one name.  Cecil Buchanan.  Or at least that's how it always seemed to me.  I never asked much about him and I just put two and two together in my head and assumed that he was the boy that she'd liked and she didn't want to go into details.  Maybe because he'd broken her heart?  I didn't know...and honestly I didn't come right out and ask.  I just made the connections and filed the name away in my head.  I assumed I knew the story.

Yes, all the genealogists in the room are snickering behind their hands.  Don't think I can't hear you.

I've also stated before that I inherited my grandmother's cedar chest and her umpteen million boxes of pictures and letters and....stuff.  Well, imagine my surprise when I found a lock of strawberry blonde hair all tied up in a ribbon, dated 1917!  It's the lock of hair and the ribbon in the picture at the top of this post.  I was all excited when I found it.  It's got his name written on it, and a lock of his hair.....and his birthdate, and her birthdate.  Awwwwwww, how teenager-like and romantic!  Ah ha, I thought! Here's some solid proof that Grandma WAS sweet on him!

Some time later, in another box buried in her things, I came across two letters that Cecil had written.  One was postmarked 1920 from Bloomington, IN and the other 1923 from Mattoon, IL.  I read through them and they seemed rather warm and loving but also rather detached.  I thought that a bit strange, really, but how was I to know hoe young people courted in letters at the time?  Anyway, after reading them over again a few times I grew curiouser and curiouser and thought hey, I have him somwhere in 1920!  I should look him up in the census!

I don't know why I hadn't done it before.  It was one of those 'slip my mind' things, I guess.  But I sat down letters in hand and started looking him up in the census.

I found him fairly easily in the 1920 Bloomington, Monroe CO IN census:

But....wait.  What's that?   Do you see it?   I thought that Cecil was a boy and this one is a girl.  Grandma always pronounced it SEE-SIL and not SUH-SEAL so this Cecile?  Hm, I thought, that can't be right.  I know,  I'll search the 1910 and see where this Cecile is:

I found 'Cecile Buchanan' in the 1910, all Crawford Co., IL.  Huh.  Right where my grandma was living at the same time.  And what's that again?  A GIRL?  Again?  Once is a coincidence maybe, or a mistake, but twice?

Ok, I thought. Is it possible that the CECIL my grandma had always talked about, and the CECILE I was looking at it possible that my grandma was talking about her BEST FRIEND???

After another few days of poking about I was beginning to think just that.  I found Cecile's marriage to Hilbert Cox and found a picture of her tombstone on a Warrick Co IN site.  Attached to the picture was an email address. I sent an email to that address and waited with bated breath.  It didn't take me long to receive a reply and to begin a correspondence with a wonderful lady who is Cecile's granddaughter.  What was even more fun was that Cecile's daughter was still alive!

I shared a long and informative phone call with both of them and I was able to compare much of what was in the letters to what these lovely people already knew about their mother and grandmother.  I learned an interesting fact very quickly, though....even though they spell it Cecile, it's pronounced SEE-SIL.  I also finally learned who the Margaret Buchanan was who took one of my favorite pictures of my grandmother, walking home from school with a metal lunch pail in 1915. She was Cecile's younger sister.

The evidence is overwhelming.  Cecile and my grandmother were chums.  Friends.  They were friends from at least 1915 until 1923, the date of the last letter.  My grandma kept a lock of Cecile's hair and even though the birthdate written on it is wrong (Cecile was actually born in Feb 1900) the people mentioned in the letters reference both Cecile's family (Helen, Margaret, Grandma Dunlap, and Elba Mudhenk) and my grandmother's family (her mother Louisa and sister Julia.)  Their tone in the letters I mentioned above?  It all made sense now.

So the mystery of the identity of 'Cecil Buchanan' is finally solved.  There's just one more thing I wonder about.  Grandma must have known what I was thinking about her Cecil.  Why didn't my grandma set me straight?

The joke's on me, grandma.  I love you dearly, you sly devil, you.  I bet you're chuckling now.  Goodness knows I am.  Hahahah!

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